Reminiscences & Rituals To Last The Years
Our hearts grow tender
with childhood memories
and love of kindred,
and we are better
throughout the year
for having, in spirit,
become a child again at Christmas time.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder 1867 – 1957)
It’s the embodiment of memories and the observation of traditions. It’s the sweet celebration of customs and sharing with like-minded souls. It’s uncomplicated and full of frivolity. It’s a time of reflection. It’s about taking stock and being grateful. It’s a time of joy and forgiveness. To Anne, Christmas is all these things and more … her love of the season being firmly rooted in past days.
The eldest of five children, Anne relishes the memories of childhood Christmases where family and friends would always come together to celebrate the bonds of love and connection … bonds which have never diminished through the years but rather have taken on different forms and even been strengthened as partners have been added to the clan, and as one very significant member of the family – Anne’s beloved Mum – has passed away. Today, so many aspects of the way in which Anne’s family celebrates Christmas are done in her memory and honour, and she is ever-present by way of the many treasured handcrafted items and seasonal decorations which she made as her children so lovingly display them throughout their homes. In many ways, this serves to make the Christmas season all the more sentimental and special, and gatherings of the clan all the more anticipated and treasured.
And on top of all this, over the years Anne has established a whole range of Christmas rituals of her own, many conducted in association with her dearest friends with whom she has shared many of life’s most significant experiences, including graduating from nursing and continuing education, as well as achieving various professional appointments.
As Anne tells, her ‘full blown’ Christmas obsession really began when she shared rental accommodation with one of her nursing associates – and now life-long friend – Joanna. “We moved into an inner-city terrace and, when the first Christmas came around, we decided we would buy a tree, decorate it with handmade ornaments, and go all out with a garland twisted up the staircase. Mum, my sister and I had once had a regular stall selling handmade crafts at the Maitland Markets so I was no stranger to making my own decorations. Fuelled with a glass or two of champagne, Joanna was given a crash course in Christmas crafting and we were off and running, making a collection of handmade decorations for that very first tree. I still have that first garland which, although starting to look a little crushed and sad in parts, takes pride of place as it winds up the staircase in my home in the Blue Mountains” Anne tells.
But this is all getting ahead of ourselves. Back to those early days living in the city! Not long after the first tree was bought, Anne saw a road sign advertising a Christmas shop in Sydney. So she and Joanna set off on a pilgrimage and the rest, as it’s said, is history. Their fate was sealed. They had found their calling … to covet Christmas collectables and festive finery in all its forms!
Soon after, the girls moved into a rambling inner-city Californian bungalow, and with more space came more opportunities for Christmas decorating, and thus … more shopping. As Anne tells, at one time they were so obsessed that every pay throughout the festive season was spent in the store buying Christmas decorations and festive treasures, principal amongst these being Anne’s newfound love – Lemax collectable village cottages. With their tiny twinkling lights and wonderfully-detailed features, her collection now takes pride of place on Anne’s dining room dresser at Christmas time.
An even greater opportunity for Anne to continue collecting, and to indulge in her passion for Christmas, came when she made the decision to move to the Blue Mountains and purchase her own home. Like any sensible, devoted Christmasholic, top of her list of home requirements was a showcase space for her Christmas tree. If it didn’t have the right spot and a subsequent warm country charm, she wasn’t buying! All her desires were met the day she found her delightful country cabin which, built in the 1990s, had been fashioned in the style and tradition of the log homes of North America. With its rustic white cedar beams outside and in, the two-storey property has the most wonderfully cosy cabin-style feel that permeates the entire downstairs open-plan living area and adjoining dining space, kitchen and office. Up the timber staircase there’s a second living area and two spacious bedrooms, made all the more cosier by way of a cedar-lined sloping ceiling above.
The fact that this is a wonderful country retreat is revealed well before one crosses the threshold, as the sprawling cottage garden at the front of the property creates the ideal buffer between the street and Anne’s very special, private world. At the same time, the nature of the garden declares her love of such traditional plants as lavender, roses and spring-flowering cherry trees. Centrally positioned on just short of an acre, the house boasts a sprawling yard at the rear – which Anne has utilised for the growing of vegetables and raising chooks – and beyond it, a trickling creek.
Up the front stairs and inside the front door, one is greeted by the key gathering space of the cabin which is so warm and welcoming one is immediately transported into a world of rustic charm and simple ease. It’s as much a tribute to Anne’s decorating skills as it is the lady herself. And especially at Christmas time, it’s a world of enveloping cheer and comfort.
Furnished with two two-seater sofas upholstered in a deep Brunswick green and softened with a combination of Laura Ashley cushions and others handcrafted by Anne’s late mother who was a talented seamstress and skilled crafter – the room is as ‘country traditional’ as one can get, especially come Christmas time. The warmth of cypress pine timbers, plaid blinds and curtaining, and the rich green upholstery is the perfect foil for the display of a handsome tree adorned in a combination of red and white decorations. The coffee table is decorated with Robert Gordon Christmas ceramics; greenery garlands threaded with twinkling fairy lights at the very top of the walls encircle the room.
Just inside the front door, a timber hall table is adorned with a selection of special Santa-themed collectables which have been acquired over the past 20 years. They sit amongst important framed family photos and a lithophane which Anne lights every night in memory of her beloved mother. She is always present here and in every part of the wonderful country cabin … represented by the cherished craftworks and textiles she helped Anne create (from lined baskets, quilts and cushions to beautiful napery and certainly a wide range of Christmas treasures); in the precious heirlooms and collectables she handed down; and in the treasured memories embodied by all these things.
On the other side of the door, in the corner of the living area, a large glass-fronted Baltic pine cabinet is filled to capacity with more sentimental treasures. They include Bunnykins collectables from childhood; her silver baby mug engraved to commemorate her birth; lots of vintage teacups and saucers – many given to her by her darling Mum – and an ever-growing array of wonderful old box brownie cameras.
In keeping with the lights which twinkle amidst the greenery around the tops of the walls, the dining nook has its own canopy of fairy lights overhead, these being left in place throughout the year as testament to Anne’s self-proclaimed status as a ‘Christmas tragic’! They complement the tiny lights of the gorgeous Lemax cottages which adorn the shelves of the timber dresser against the wall. For a special dinner gathering the table is set with Anne’s best Wedgwood Queensware china.
More lights twinkle on the vintage greenery garland (bought on her very first Christmas decoration buying excursion all those years ago) which lines the stairs leading to the bedroom accommodation above. On each step sits a favourite Christmas character – Santas, snowmen, reindeers and such. Many have been handcrafted by Anne and her Mum, as well as having been discovered within the Christmas collections of Rick Rutherford’s Country – Anne’s favourite country store!
As one reaches the top of the stairs, a second splendid tree proclaims that both levels of the home are fair game for Anne’s passion for Christmas decorating. The tree – which was originally bought for her parents home but was simply too big – Is adorned with a wide array of ornaments and decorations. As is typical of Anne, most have special sentimental value, have been handcrafted; or represent things that she loves. In one corner of the room another tribute to her passion for Lemax is presented by way of a tabletop train set, and a ‘Santa’s North Pole Animal Rescue’ piece which once belonged to Anne’s late Mum.
Even the outside of the home gets the Christmas treatment – from the front verandah to the back. The perfect place for al fresco Christmas entertaining, the back deck in particular is a favourite spot to dress up with Christmas finery – from Anne’s handcrafted tablecloth and tub of red candles to large battery-lit stars hanging overhead.
“Many of the aspects of my Christmas decorating have evolved over the years to become important personal rituals that honour the loved ones of my life, both past and present. And each year they seem to get stronger as family and friends are drawn here to observe and celebrate the season and the bonds we share” Anne tells.
One significant annual tradition that Anne is determined to observe ‘into her dotage’ is the sacrosanct Christmas shopping day on the first Friday in November. As she explains “every year a group of my closest, kindred Christmas-loving friends take the first Friday in November off work. We head to a host of our favourite Christmas haunts with the mission to find new Christmas decorations and festive finery. It’s strictly a ‘decorations only’ day and always filled with fun and camaraderie as it marks the beginning of the Christmas season for each of us”.
Another ritualistic observation that has evolved between this ‘Christmas clan’ in recent years is participation in the annual Yulefest celebrations at Rick Rutherford’s Country in July (where Anne goes all out to host the group at her fully-decorated home, serving a lavish meal after they all attend one of the afternoon launch sessions) and again at the beginning of November when the annual RRC Christmas Collections officially commence.
As Anne states “we start with champagne prior to attending, shop like women possessed and then head home for a traditional Christmas meal. We do our annual Kris Kringle exchange (which we always buy on the night at the store) and then collapse into bed well after midnight. It really has evolved into being one of the most anticipated weekends on the calendar, especially as it centres around the best things of Christmas … sharing love and laughter with special friends, honouring memories of loved ones past and present, and making new memories to treasure in times to come.”
And isn’t that really what Christmas is all about?
2013 Christmas Collections Instore …
‘Memories Of Christmases Past’
It’s the most anticipated time of the year. At the end of the trials and difficulties, the joys and accomplishments, the memorable events and the forgettable … it’s that one time of the year when differences are set aside; when we take stock and once again reveal to those around us how much we treasure each other. It truly is a time of peace on earth and goodwill to all men. It’s a time of reconciliation, appreciation, boundless love and understanding. It’s about making things right and starting afresh. It’s Christmas time!
The celebratory season is one of the major focal points within the annual calendar for leading Blue Mountains gallery Rick Rutherford’s Country. The task of finding the unique treasures and decorations that fill the business’s Lawson location starts in January and continues relentlessly up until the official launch of the annual Christmas collections on the first Saturday in November. This is when over 250 invited guests are offered first look at the amazing array of unique, specially-imported and many handmade festive wares. And then the very next day the doors open to everyone!
The 2013 launch was Saturday November 2nd.
As Rick Rutherford explains “over the years we have gained a wonderful reputation for offering one of the most unique Christmas ranges anywhere. Each of the ten rooms of our Lawson heritage gallery is decked to the nines, as the entire building is transformed into a veritable Christmas wonderland. And we continue to maintain the themes of each of the rooms as well, with displays reflecting the respective Victorian, English, Folk, Children’s, Retro and Cottage looks.
“This year the overriding theme of the entire 2013 Collections is ‘Memories of Christmases Past’ so the wonderful displays have a marvellous nostalgic feel and are sure to ignite reminiscences of Christmases gone by … as well as make many new memories for all who venture along to see what is a showing of over 45 specially-decorated trees” Rick adds.
Renowned for creating tree displays that are ‘stand alone artworks’ in their own right, this year’s tree themes include a glass angel bell tree, three fabulous retro tributes, several vintage Victoriana trees, wooden folk trees, snowman story, cardinal and bird trees, a towering traditional English tree covered in collectable glass ornaments, a gingerbread man tree, very special children’s tree, Australiana tree and many, many more.
“The wonderful thing about our annual Christmas displays is that so many people now anticipate their unveiling in early November and come from far and wide to see what we have created. Visitors from as far away as West Australia and New Zealand make an annual pilgrimage to see the collections, so the pressure is always on to outdo what we have previously done” Rick states. “To achieve such a mission we have imported a huge cache of festive goods from many parts of the world and they are unique to us in Australia. Plus there are many handmade wares and one-off collectable Christmas treasures.”
And to complement such an endless selection of festive fare, Rick Rutherford’s Country has also assembled the hugest selection of homewares and gift-giving ideas for everyone on everybody’s shopping list. Given the almost endless choice, the outstanding prices and unique selection, it’s not surprising that people from all over the mountains and surrounding regions make RRC their one-stop Christmas shopping destination, avoiding the hustle and bustle, the commercialism and confusion of the malls in the process!
To further service the Mountain’s community, this year the RRC Leura store will be putting even more emphasis on its Christmas showing as the whole shop is transformed into a ‘mini wonderland’ to reflect the selection and experience offered by the main Lawson gallery. The launch here will be this coming weekend.
So come lift your spirits, be inspired, discover a special Christmas treasure to add to your family collection, find everything you need for everyone on your gift-giving list, indulge in a wonderful experience and make some memories … at Rick Rutherford’s Country.
A Loving Tribute To the Season
It’s now officially open … the most spectacular Christmas displays in the Blue Mountains, staged at the essential country gallery destination – Rick Rutherford’s Country – within the heritage precinct of Lawson. On Saturday November 3rd, several hundred people attended five glittering launch events – back to back – and now the amazing displays, which take in ten rooms and include over 40 differently-decorated trees, are open to everyone.
As owner Rick Rutherford explains “the response on the first day alone was overwhelming. These are the largest and most detailed Christmas collections we have ever presented, and took more than 9 months to put together. All the elements have been imported especially from overseas, made exclusively for the store and sourced from some of Australia’s best wholesalers and distributors. The detailing centres around the fact that this year, for the first time, I have chosen to celebrate my ten years as the founding author and editor of ‘Australian Country Collections’ magazine by designing each of the over 40 trees with a very significant theme, enhanced by a special verse or quote as was seen at the beginning of each chapter of my magazine”.
And the displays are breathtaking, with visitors already saying that they would rival the best Christmas exhibits seen in some of the famous stores of Europe and America. The English room is dominated by a towering tree covered in the most beautiful glass ornaments; the Victorian room is all vintage and soft golds and silver. In the Cottage room there’s a ‘Blue Ice’ tree, Faith tree, one covered in glass lollies and ice cream sundaes, and another that’s all white ornaments and snowflakes. The Rick Rutherford’s Country permanent Christmas room at the back of the shoppe has been re-designed with a very distinctive Scandinavian and gingerbread theme while the Children’s room – with its newly-installed mantelpiece – awaits the arrival of Santa Claus himself.
There are so many other wonderful displays throughout the beautiful heritage store that are equally breathtaking … from the snowman, autumn, nostalgia and word trees in the Folk room to the angel tree in the Coastal corridor and the funky and colourful trees in the Retro section. All really do require firsthand inspection. And to match the enormous array of Christmas treasures and festive heirloom collectables, Rick Rutherford’s Country is literally bursting at the seams with the widest selection of everyday homewares, decorator pieces and gift-giving ideas … so a visit before Christmas Eve is really essential. If Rick Rutherford’s Country won’t get you in the Christmas mood … nothing will!
‘Tis The Season … To Decorate!
“Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts.
No matter how we may dread the rush,
the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards
to be bought and given –
When Christmas Day comes there is still
the same warm feeling we had as children,
the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes.”
(Joan Winmill Brown)
She is beyond an avid Christmas collector. Catherine Warner of Orange (NSW) is a true Christmas connoisseur … a ‘festive aficionado’ who anxiously awaits the coming of the season each year so she can embark on the herculean effort it is to transform her delightful contemporary country home into a showcase of winterland wonderment and Christmas delight.
Never content to simply put up a tree and dot a few Christmas figurines about, Catherine entirely ‘re-decorates’ a total of eight rooms of her home, creating very special themes and vignettes as she goes. It is little wonder that people from far and wide make the pilgrimage to see her amazing displays each year, and there’s nobody more pleased and proud of what she achieves than husband Graham and the other members of her family.
And as is the case within the Lawson gallery of Rick Rutherford’s Country, all the everyday treasures and collectable wares are still here to be discovered too – from Arnott’s tin collections and baby’s wares to vintage kitchenalia (including a wonderful old cash register, lolly jars, old ice cream scoops, cooking utensils and more), an antique mangle, vintage bathroom and laundry wares and the list goes on and on.
All is artfully put together with the skill of a professional store display artist. And no time is this more evident than at Christmas … the greatest decorating season of all!
From Here And Afar
Christmas… is not an eternal event at all,
but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.
(Freya Stark 1893 – 1993)
A lifetime of collecting and crafting, designing and decorating is at the very heart of the Jan and Margie Van Krieken’s unique country style. The couple live in the beachside suburb of Mullaloo in West Australia, and have resided in the same wonderfully comfortable country abode – a showcase for their beautiful collections of china, glass and treasured antiques – for over 20 years.
The Van Krieken’s delightful country residence is a showcase for their skill at ‘hunting and collecting’ as they have scoured Australian and overseas markets for the special pieces which give their home its unique personality and sense of warm style. And at no time of the year is this more obvious than at Christmas – the couple’s favourite season – when their enormous cache of rare, exclusive, vintage, imported and otherwise specially-handcrafted festive treasures are hauled out of storage and used to adorn and decorate every part of their delightful country house.
As Margie tells, she and Jan have been collecting Christmasalia for about as long as she can remember, the mission to find that next gorgeous decoration or heirloom ornament taking the couple from the famed Christmas markets of Germany and Holland – including the North Rhine village of Aachen, Berlin, Valkenburg Caves in Limburg in southernmost Holland – to the various Christmas stores of Australia – the year-round Christmas room Rick Rutherford’s Country in Lawson (NSW) being one of Margie’s favourite haunts when she is visiting the east coast!
The significance of the Van Krieken’s Christmas passions is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that their main tree – a beautiful forest pine – was discovered in a garden centre in Holland and was shipped home specially to ‘star’ in their living room and to showcase an array of beautiful decorations, including over sixty candle trios which were bought in the tiny Christmas village of Monschau in the Eifel region of Germany. Monschau is one of the couple’s favourite places in the world … perhaps because it has such a wonderful charm and heritage, especially come the cold of winter and Christmas.
Santa collections are showcased in groups throughout the Van Krieken’s home … there are carved ones, an antique leather chap, and others made of fabric and resin. Similarly, the couple’s Snowman collection is proudly displayed, the two star members being a pair of 100 year old snowmen which – handmade from starched fabric and filled with straw – were found at the famous Jaabeurs International Collectors Fair which is staged twice yearly at Utrecht in Holland.
As Margie tells, decorating the house each year follows traditions which have been observed in the family for many years. “It all begins late in November when the wreaths go up and are tied with cinnamon sticks, fruit and our own West Australian pine cones which are collected from the pine plantations near us. The fragrance throughout the house is beautiful. Then it’s time to tend to the tree. On go the Christmas carols, out come the glasses of wine and away we go. The process of decorating the tree and putting out the other arrangements takes at least a full day or more.
“At this time, we are always mindful of Jan’s homeland and his family residing in cold, snow-covered Holland. Also, for many years, our daughter lived in Europe with her family and was unable to get home for Christmas. And so, in memory and tribute to these things, we turn the air conditioning on high and pretend it’s winter here too! As far as other traditional observations are concerned, we celebrate mainly on Christmas Eve with a formal dinner, listen to carols and then walk to Midnight Mass. Christmas Day is spent with family and friends” Margie tells.
Indeed, the Van Krieken’s Christmas celebrations embody the best ‘country customs’ as they embrace the showcasing of treasured collections; the decorating of each part of the home with special themes and arrangements; and the embracing of family and friends as a focal point of celebrations … all done in accordance with time-honoured traditions of their own making, and those of a homeland far across the seas.
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